I am a proud member of the Labour Party because of my belief in the central idea of looking after each other. Values such as compassion, empathy, kindness, community and humanity underpin this idea, and I believe in it wholeheartedly. This is the Labour I have perceived over my lifetime and is the one I choose to believe in. Labour is not a party of hatred, discrimination or prejudice, and anyone that does act in this way is therefore not Labour. They might think they are, but this would be false in my opinion.
Looking after people is not limited to protecting a person’s physical wellbeing. Fighting for policies that ensure decent living standards is not enough anymore. Mental wellbeing has become a huge issue across society, and while life can be hard enough as it is, no one should have to endure the hurt and pain that is associated with being bullied and alienated for their religious beliefs.
And so the conclusions drawn from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into Antisemitism in the Labour Party are difficult to reconcile with the belief I have in what the Party is. They concluded there were unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour Party is responsible; more could and should have been done where Anti-semetism was identified, but it wasn’t; and leadership on this matter was not nearly as strong as it needed to have been.
There are some who do not agree with the report, and others, notably, the leader of the Labour party, Sir Kier Starmer, fully accept the findings and have acted accordingly. But for me, this is not about whether the report is right or wrong. Anti-Semitism is wrong and anyone that holds those beliefs needs to look within themselves and really explore what is going on and why and how they have come to believe what they do.
It should be obvious to say that the responsibility of a person’s thoughts and actions are theirs and theirs alone. Anti-semetic views of one Labour Party member does not mean that all Labour members are anti-semetic – and the same can be said for religious associations. A human being can be good or bad regardless of their association to any particular group.
In terms of people that hold bigoted views, their vast plain of ignorance can be distressing and infuriating and it is all too easy to write them off. However, these views have been developed through a particular exposure to a certain set of beliefs throughout their lives, and it is only through entering into dialogue that there can be a chance of bridging the gap.
Ironically, a contemptuous stance against bigots and racists may be the instinctive way to go, however, it may be prudent not to fall into the same trap they did – they, like Labour members and Jewish followers, are not one homogenous group. Each opinion is different and more or less extreme; more or less informed; and more or less dogmatic. Each opinion is spoken from a person from a different background and experience. So yes, as much as it may sound inexplicable, we must engage in conversation and do so with a mind-set of patience and forgiveness in order to try and unlock the central premise of their beliefs, to either lessen the impact of their views or change them altogether.
The findings in the report is not the Labour Party I identify with. The Labour idea is a force for peace and is stronger than any individual that thinks otherwise.